john bennett | the talent confiscation act

The Talent Confiscation Act

The pressure’s on. There was a knock at the door. Anonymous emails. Three phone messages from an 800 number. A penetrating look from a stranger at the train station.

Some sort of new law. The Talent Confiscation Act. It’s linked to minimum wage and inspired by adjunct professors. Not by adjuncts per-se, but by the advantageous fiscal nature of their function. They work like dogs for peanuts and universities stay solvent. More than solvent, full-salaried professors shy of tenure lose their jobs and administrators get fat bonuses. New building go up, staffed by under-paid adjuncts, and top-dollar athletes come drifting in.

It’s become mandatory to utilize talent to fiscal advantage. Writers of talent not generating income can have their talent confiscated and harnessed to news syndicates at minimum wage with a required 50,000 words a month output. Standards have been established to determine the level of a writer’s talent. Failure to perform at this level can result in confiscation of salary, and in extreme cases, prison sentences.

On a scale of one to ten, it has been determined I function at level six. I’ve been assigned to a local paper in Casper, Wyoming. Refusal to relocate can also result in prison time. Non-compliance teams from the Corrections Corporation of America have been granted the contract for apprehending non-compliant talent and arranging for their incarceration.

I tried to plead ignorance when they brought me before a tribunal. After all, I didn’t respond to the emails or the phone calls. And when the registered letter arrived, I refused to sign for it. But the postman had a hidden camera that filmed him holding out the letter and me backing away, shaking my head no–incriminating evidence. They gave me 48 hours to report for work in Casper or face the consequences. That’s when I knew I had to get out, disappear, lay low. And then that penetrating look from a total stranger in the waiting room of the train station.

I put my suitcase in a locker and went into the men’s room. There was a janitor in there, and I paid him $50 to change clothes with me and lend me his push broom. I pulled his billed cap low over my eyes, bent over the broom, and swept my way to the far end of the station where I slipped out a side door.

I’m on the run. A fugitive from justice. I’m careful not to say anything clever and give myself away. I eat in missions and sleep under bridges. At first I played my harmonica to ease my nerves and help me get to sleep in the dark and cold, but last night another homeless person settled in much closer to me than the unspoken vagrant’s code allows. His clothes were old and torn, but they were clean. And his shoes–his shoes were like new. I’m positive he was recording me, assessing the level of my talent as a musician.

I won’t go back there tonight. I’ll hop a freight out of town. And get rid of my harmonica.

click the Hcolom Press logo to visit the web page...HCOLOM PRESS is the heir to Vagabond Press, which began as a main player in the Mimeo Revolution of the Sixties and continued publishing right into the jaws of the new millennium. HCOLOM PRESS embodies the spirit of Vagabond Press, retooled for the times we live in.

Hcolom is Moloch spelled backwards. Moloch is an Old Testament deity to which children were sacrificed, a practice society still engages in with increased enthusiasm. Consumerism is the new Moloch, manifesting itself like cancer in war, politics, the arts and religion, in every nook and cranny of human endeavor, draining the intrinsic beauty out of life and mutilating the innocence and magic of childhood with its commercial meat hook. HCOLOM PRESS intends to publish books that by their nature repudiate this pernicious force–novels, poetry, children’s books and books that transcend genre.

Our launch book, in June of 2006, was John Bennett’s novel, Tire Grabbers, a fable of sorts, a reality book rooted in the fantasy of our times, the story of the coming of Moloch and the children who rise up in rebellion against it.

Books of kindred spirit will follow close on its heels. Go for it by clicking here… or hit the Hcolom logo above…

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